Coffeetown Press, PB, $14.95, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-60381-591-8
Serendipity is the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident . . . which is what happened here at the MBR when our mailbox, (P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO 80901) yielded up an unsolicited new publication from a small independent press in Seattle, Washington, which brought a unique new character and a superb writer to our attention.
Illegal Holdings, by Michael Niemann, features a fraud investigator from the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services named Valentin Vermeulen. In this, the third book of the series, he’s sent to Maputo, Mozambique, (Naw, me either, but if you think of the African continent as a clockface, it’s down in the five o’clock position, by the Indian Ocean) where he’s going to audit a NGO by the name of Global Alternatives—the not-for-profit, Non Governmental Organization that’s been set up and funded by a hedge fund billionaire named Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid—to see if they’re spending their UN grant money as promised. It’s a boring, ho-hum assignment to the far reaches of the world . . . made brighter only by the fact that his globe-trotting lover Tessa, will be there at the same time, reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa. But as soon as he hits town, Vermeulen discovers a five-million dollar discrepancy in the accounts of Global Alternatives local partner Nossa Terra, who claims that the money . . . supposedly transferred from GA to them . . . was never received. Vermeulen at first gets excuses—never saw, never got, never before and the like—which sets his alarm bells to ringing at full tilt. When the chief accountant and defacto second in command at Nossa Terra disappears on the following day, the case for his guilt seems evident to everyone. But soon after his body washes up on the beach, and there’s no doubt he’s been murdered. It’s only the first act in a chain of violence and criminality that Vermeulen is powerless to stop, as he digs in and desperately tries to solve an increasingly complex series of crimes and evermore vicious events before he, or Tessa, or both of them are killed. Valentin Vermeulen is a hero you can believe in, an ordinary, brave and honest man, who’s doing an almost impossible job in the toughest of places. He’s a character you’ll like, and maybe even love, and definitely want to read more of!